Thundersnow: A Rare Winter Weather Phenomenon


When it rains, it rains. When it snows, it snows. And when it thundersnows, it really snows!

Thundersnow is a weather phenomenon that excites and surprises weather enthusiasts in the winter precisely because it’s so rare. Jim Cantore’s reaction on The Weather Channel sums it up well: “You can have your $500 million jackpot in Powerball, but I’ll take this, baby!”

WARNING – Jim gets pretty excited so be careful your volume isn’t to high!  😉


Click Here for Jim Cantore Video


The reason thundersnow is such a rare occurrence is because very specific circumstances must be present in the atmosphere to create the kind of instability needed for a thunderstorm to occur. Air close to the ground must be warm enough to clash with the cooler air above, but that same air must still be cold enough to produce snow.

What’s more, when these particular circumstances exist, the process that creates lightning within the cloud will also create a heavier burst of snow, leaving a flash of bright white light in the sky and a thick layer of white on the ground. According to a 30-year study by atmospheric researchers from the University of Missouri, there is an 86 percent chance that at least six inches of snow will fall within 70 miles of the lightning flash.

If It’s Thundersnow, You’ll Want To Know

That same study says thundersnow only occurs about six times each year, and most of those occurrences happen in the Rocky Mountain region and areas near the Great Lakes. For this reason, most people in the U.S. will never experience a thundersnow in their lifetime.

The next time you’re dealing with a snowstorm, you can track any occurrences of this rare winter weather phenomenon with the handheld lightning detector feature of the INO Technology Weather Pro. Any time lightning flashes and strikes the ground, the Weather Pro will alert you and log the event. You might witness more than one flash, like Jim Cantore above, but for your own safety, it’s best to witness this weather event from inside a safe shelter.

As always, safety is a top priority. Most thundersnow lightning travels horizontally through the clouds and doesn’t make contact with the ground, but not all. Lightning strikes are still a possibility, so take precautions by following all lightning safety guidelines. If you’re stuck outside during a thundersnow, INO Technology’s Outdoor Lightning Safety Card can help guide you as you find your safest options to decrease your chances of a lightning strike.  Click here for your own copy of our Outdoor Lightning Safety Card.